new skeg retrofit?

I may be mistaken but I thought I had heard about a new skeg design I could retrofit to a valley boat. My '96 pintail has suffered two kinked cables this summer and I’m looking for better solutions. Anyone?

Check on…
Valley’s new cables, my Nord has a sleeve or solid end where the slider is.

Don’t know if they will retrofit the older systems.

Or just get better wire
Necky uses Nitinol wire, so I’m told, and it’s as close to bombproof as you can get. If not, a larger gauge stainless wire (As large as you can fit without binding) might do the trick, too.

Check out McMaster-Carr’s website for wire. It might save you a few bucks. They have stainless and nitinol last time I looked.

A simpler solution…
…is to just pay more attention to the skeg when you’re paddling. If you bent two cables in one season, the problem isn’t the skeg. You need to get into the habit of:

  • checking that it works before you launch

  • checking that it works after you get on the water

  • launching stern first or walking into the water if the beach is covered with gravel that can jam the skeg

  • making sure that the skeg is up before landing

  • NEVER forcing the skeg slider

    Its also a really good idea to drill a small hole in the end of the skeg blade so you can tie a short piece of cord to it. That way a companion can reach under your boat and pull the skeg down it it gets jammed while launching.

It happens
My skeg cable was kinked during loading. Eager beaver pushed my kayak, the slider caught on something, skeg was blocked, and bingo - we have a kink.

You cannot source the Nitinol wire guage that Necky uses via McMaster. They only sell the finer guages.

Stainless is too stiff. Titanium works OK, but not nearly as well as the Nitinol.

Necky will sell wire but I know not the current price? Not cheap stuff.

For those unaware Nitinol is a Titanium Nickel alloy and is a memory metal which can be bent all over and return to it’s shape. It is virtually inert in salt water as well.

It is the material used in heart stents, angioplasty wire, etc. Very cool material, and it works great in skeg systems as it eliminates kinking.

Have not seen the hydraulic skegs, but hydraulic systems can be made simple and very effective. In theory it makes sense.

Cheap, no
But, it may be the last skeg wire you’ll have to buy. Makes it worth the price, IMO.

I was looking at my better half’s skeg wire on her Explorer, and I’m shocked that it hasn’t kinked yet. It’s really cheesy wire. I think it hasn’t had any issues because the skeg is real sloppy in the cassette (You can hear it banging around when she paddles with it down), and doesn’t have much chance of binding up. I already told her we’d find some nitinol wire once it does kink, and we’ll likely never have to deal with it again.

Another tip
Set your slider such that your skeg is just slightly proud of the slot when all the way up. This way, if it does jam, one of your paddling buds can grip it with their fingers and pull it down. Works well for me. It also helps keep rocks out of the cassette.

I don’t like strings hanging down from the bottom of my boat for entanglement and drag reasons, and have found this works almost as well.

sounds great in theory
You’re absolutely right, my care could be better applied to help prevent this, I freely admit that. But with some unplanned surf landings (w/skeg up) and getting in out of a storm it was not the first thing on my mind. Even w/skeg up I seem to get crud in there and even with the string to pull it out, it seems like there isn’t much space tolerance. Really though, I just look at the system and it seems like some prevention could be designed in pretty easily.

I seem to recall a bar being at the cockpit end of the skeg to prevent this. Anyone know why they went away from that idea?

hydraulic skeg

wanna have some fun? apply electricity
to the nitnol wire…

it will bend…

i worked in a marine robotics lab and we use that stuff (REALLY FINE THO) to act as “muscles” in a robot that we designed to swim like a lamprey…

fun stuff…

also temperature can affect the bend of nitonol wire too…


Offset the Skeg
I won’t comment on which skeg or wire is best, but one simple thing you can do to reduce jamming is to install the skeg about 1 inch off the centerline.

Instead of putting your skeg right on the keel line where it often must absorb full force of dragging up a beach, just moving it to the side a little bit makes a big difference.

Offsetting the skeg does not cause any noticeable tracking issue so long as you are careful to keep it parallel to the centerline. You can place it more than an inch from the centerline, but there will be less vertical height.

A side benefit is you can more easily get gear in the space behind the skeg when it is moved to one side.